The Final Empire
By: Brandon Sanderson
A thousand years ago evil came to the land. A dark lord rules through the aristocratic families and ordinary folk labor as slaves in volcanic ash fields. A troublemaker arrives. A rumored revolt depends on an untrustworthy criminal and a young girl who must master Allomancy, metal magic.
It's all led us right here, hasn't it? I loved The Rithmatist and I loved Steelheart. But this book, this series, is what it was always leading up to.
How can someone even summarize this book. It's huge and awesome and inventive and fantastic. Thorough characters, detailed world-building, and an expansive plot make this book one of the best fantasy books I have ever read, indeed, one of the best any-kind-of books I have ever read.
I fell in love with these characters. Kelsier, Vin, Elend, Sazed, Dockson, Breeze, Ham. All of them. One of the fantastic things about this book is that I had no problem connecting with them. I was invested from the prologue, I wanted to find out what would happen to them. I wanted to hear their story. That's one of the most important things a book can do, it has to make you want to hear what it has to say. It has to make you care. And I cared about this story from the very beginning.
Vin has easily found herself a place in my list of all-time favorite heroines. She's growing and changing, but she has heart and strength and courage. She does stupid things sometimes, but not for lack of conscience or intelligence. She makes mistakes because she's a sixteen year-old, because she was taught to look at the world with distrust, and because she isn't always told everything about the world she inhabits. I'm actually surprised by how well Brandon Sanderson made Vin sound like a realistic teenage girl. It wasn't ever forced or awkward. I could connect with her so easily, so fully.
Kelsier is such an interesting take on the typical hero, which I've decided Sanderson is quite great at accomplishing in his books. He's a revolutionary disguising himself as a thief. Your view of him is always involving throughout the story along with the other characters' views of him. I loved his and Vin's relationship. They understand each other, even when they don't (if that even makes sense).
Elend: Darling Elend. I wanted to trust him from the beginning. And I am so happy. So very happy with how he progressed as a character. Another area where Sanderson is breaking stereotypes. I cannot wait to see where Elend goes in this series, he's a personal favorite of mine.
I love how all of the characters are so distinctive. Their interactions are golden, everyone from the crew to Elend and everyone else. There was a perfect balance of humor and intensity. Banter and real emotions mixed just right is one of my favorite combinations. That's exactly what this book did.
The only way I can think to describe this plot is a slow burn. There was always something happening. I wouldn't describe a single chapter or even page as boring. That being said, the overarching plot took place over a year and 550 pages, so it all builds up to the stunning ending. The progression didn't ever stop, which kept you wanting to read just a bit more, then a bit more after that. In my opinion, this is what massive Epic Fantasy books should feel like. There should be a final, thrilling, grand destination, but the journey there shouldn't be boring either. This book excels at keeping itself interesting. Even now, 550 pages into this series, the reader doesn't know even remotely everything about the world. There are still secrets that you want revealed.
The world-building is...________ [Oops. It appears there isn't an adjective grand enough to describe the world-building in this series.] Seriously, the world of The Final Empire is giant and mysterious and wonderful and engaging and inventive and so many other things. It's unlike any other system of magic I have ever encountered. And the execution matches the concept, if not exceeds it. Brandon Sanderson doesn't waste the wonderful concept of metal-burning based powers. The powers are interwoven and understandable, and yet they still maintain their whimsy AND edginess even after the reader has encountered them countless times in the context of the story.
I cannot say enough great things. I am physically and mentally incapable of explaining how unbelievably wonderful this story is. I'm just going to leave it at this and hope it's enough to make you want to pick up the series:
If you have even the vaguest of interests in High Fantasy, I suggest you start here. Moreover, if you have even the vaguest of interests in moving stories told about humans that dissect hope and belief while also introducing you to characters you will love and root for: I suggest you start here.
"If men read these words, let them know that power is a heavy burden. Seek not to be bound by its chains."
"The answer should be obvious, I think. People are valuable, Mistress Vin, and so - therefore - are their beliefs."
"But...do you stop loving someone just because they betray you? I don't think so. That's what makes the betrayal hurt so much-pain, frustration, anger...and I still loved her. I still do."
"Men rarely see their own actions as unjustified."
"Boring?" Elend asked. "Gentlemen, these ideas-these words- they're everything. These men knew that they'd be executed for their words. Can you not sense their passion?"
"Men are more intelligent that that, I think. Our belief is often strongest when it should be weakest. That is the nature of hope."
"I don't know," Vin said. "Once, maybe I would have thought you a fool, but...well, that's kind of what trust is, isn't it? A willful self-denial? You have to shut out that voice that whispers about betrayal, and just hope that your friends aren't going to hurt you."
"Belief isn't simply a thing for fair times and bright days, I think. What is belief - what is faith - if you don't continue in it after failure?...Anyone can believe is someone, or something, that always succeeds, Mistress. But failure...ah, now, that is hard to believe in, certainly and truly. Difficult enough to have value, I think."